FAU student describes being lost at sea

By Tara Cardoso bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX) - A 21-year-old ocean engineering student from FAU went out the Boca Inlet on a kayak to catch some fish Monday night. But, little did Garrett Simonsen know, he would be in for a very long night.

While he was fishing, he lost his oar. He was fighting with a big fish and didn't realize it was gone until too late. He had his cell phone with him, but didn't want to call 911 because he thought he could get back paddling - by hand.

He eventually realized he wouldn't be able to do that and called 911 later that night. Then, his cell phone battery died.

The Coast Guard went looking for him but couldn't find him. Nasty thunderstorms rolled in all night long.

He tell us he was afraid his boat would sink, and he was also afraid he would get struck by lightning. He says, "The lightning was right next to me. It seemed like it was striking so close. It looked like a rainbow. It was loud."

His boat kept filling up with water, so he spent most of the night filling an empty coke bottle up with water from the boat to dump it out. His kayak was tossed around in ten foot waves. It flipped over once, and he was luckily able to get back in, but he lost his cooler and his lights.

He filled up an empty coke bottle over and over again to get the water out of the kayak. He drank rain water with his mouth open, but grew tired and delirious.

Around 9 a.m. the next morning, he was able to flag down a cargo freighter from Haiti. He had drifted 35 miles north and was two and half miles out from the Lake Worth Inlet. So, will he be going back out? Not in the kayak.

Other than getting a little banged up, Simonsen is just fine.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission issued him a ticket for "careless operation." He knows he should have had his oar tied down and had an emergency paddle. He just moved here from Colorado and says he didn't mean to cause such a stir.